Where are the Edges of a Protected Area? Political Dispossession in Machu Picchu, Peru

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Luciano, Pellegrino
Journal Article
This report draws on fieldwork done in Machu Picchu, Peru in order to critique the Wittemyer et al. (2008) study on population growth around protected areas. I disagree with the study's emphasis on reducing people's motives to economic drives alone. The study separates the political from the economic by attempting to fix motives as economic calculations. I argue that a homogenous social process does not drive the population of the protected area. The approach used by Wittemyer et al. (2008) risks constructing a dichotomy that frames inhabitants of protected areas as either 'needy' or 'greedy', and fails to recognise that protected areas can form different kinds of political spaces for locals. In Machu Picchu the failure to recognise political space leads to many misunderstandings between locals and conservationists. The paper is a reminder that even for locals, protected areas involve discursive and political relations and the construction of a public sphere that has its own drive and momentum.